Czech and Slovak top officials, among them Czech President Miloš Zeman and Slovak President Andrej Kiska, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Slovak prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, gathered at Prague’s Vítkov Memorial before mid-day on Sunday for a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to mark the centenary of the birth of independent Czechoslovakia and pay homage to those who laid down their lives for the country.
Shortly after, President Miloš Zeman appointed new army and police generals. A ceremonial change-of-guard at Prague Castle at midday attracted dozens of people, despite cold weather and heavy rain.
The historic building of the National Museum, which was ceremonially opened by Czech and Slovak top officials and visiting foreign dignitaries on Saturday, opened its doors to the general public at precisely 10 am on Sunday. Despite heavy rain people queued up for the opportunity to be among the first to see it.
The museum, which underwent a complex renovation over the past three and a half years, offers visitors an exhibition documenting the coexistence of Czechs and Slovaks in the 20th century.
The museum opened with a special ceremony and video-mapping show also highlighting the milestones of the country’s common history. It will be free of charge to visitors until the end of the year.
One of the highlights of the centenary celebrations in Prague was the biggest military parade in the country’s modern history. The parade on Evropská street showcased the best that the country’s security forces have to offer. Over 2,000 people including professional soldiers from the country’s elite units, police officers, firemen and emergency crews took part, displaying the latest military technology. A planned flyby of Gripen army planes and helicopters went ahead, despite heavy rain.
The parade was viewed, from a special tribune, by Czech and Slovak top officials, visiting foreign guests and members of the diplomatic corps. Among the foreign guests present was US Secretary of Defence James Mattis.
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has expressed deep regret over the loss of Czech lives in Afghanistan in the past three months. The US official, who took part in the celebrations marking 100 years since the birth of Czechoslovakia, and met with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, said the US administration acknowledged and appreciated the way in which the Czech Republic was fulfilling its NATO commitments in working for peace and security, among others by its presence in Afghanistan.
The Czech Republic lost four soldiers serving in NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan this year. Three were killed in a suicide blast near the Bagram military base in August and another was killed in an attack at the start of this week. Five others were injured in a bomb blast last week.
The Czech and Slovak prime ministers, Andrej Babiš and Peter Pellegrini said, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia, that due to seven decades of coexistance in a common state Czechs and Slovaks are closer than any other nations in the world.
Prime Minister Pellegrini said this was something that must be nurtured and developed if it was to be preserved for future generations.Prime Minister Babiš said that he wished both nations another 100 years of freedom, democracy and pride..
Today the Czech Republic and Slovakia are close allies in the EU, with the only marked difference in that Slovakia has adopted the euro, while the Czech Republic has no immediate plans to do so.
On the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia President Miloš Zeman handed out state distinctions to leading personalities and selected members of the public. Among the historical figures honoured in memoriam on the occasion of the centenary celebrations are Antonín Švehla, who served three terms as the prime minister of Czechoslovakia in the years of the First Republic, and three generals of the First Republic Josef Bilý, Stanislav Čeček and Karel Husárek.
The president also awarded medals for bravery, in memoriam, to three Czech soldiers killed in Afghanistan in August of this year, Martin Marcin,Kamil Beneš and Patrik Štěpánek.
Other recipients include two-time Olympic gold medallist, Ester Ledecká, and retired tennis player Radek Štěpánek.
The Office of the President has sparked controversy by failing to invite President Zeman’s critics to the event. Dozens of others refused to attend in protest.
A fireworks display in Prague took place at 19 hours 18 minutes –symbolizing the year of the birth of Czechoslovakia 100 years ago.
It was titled “Our Common Century” and was dominated by Czechoslovakia’s national colours – blue, red and white.
The 10 minute show reflected milestone moments in the country’s history, national symbols, the natural beauties of Czechoslovakia and the sports successes achieved over the years.
Each of the sections was accompanied by different music, such as excerpts from Bedřich Smetana’s opera Libuše of his cycle of symphonic poems My Country.
After Sunday’s cold, rainy weather, Monday should bring a warming with day temperatures between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius in the western parts of the country and up to 20 degrees Celsius in Moravia.However meteorologists have issued a high wind warning for the entire country.